New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is winding up a flagship eBiz portal launched by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, which was supposed to act as a one-stop facility for businesses to obtain government licences and clearances as well as reduce red tape and improve transparency.

“The eBiz portal is being wound up. It was conceived in 2009 and implementation got delayed for various reasons. By the time we started implementing it in 2014, many states had their own online systems," a government official said on condition of anonymity. “Only limited services could be integrated into eBiz. For example, we could integrate only two services of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) into eBiz, while if one visits the CBDT portal, one can avail all its services."

Developed by Infosys Ltd for the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) under the National e-Governance Plan in a public-private partnership model for 10 years, the government-to-business portal was launched by then commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma in January 2013.

According to the original plan, the first three years of the term would be the pilot phase, while the remaining seven years would be the expansion phase. During the pilot phase, a total of 50 (26 central + 24 state) services from five pilot states were supposed to have been integrated. It was envisaged that in 10 years, more than 200 services related to investors and businesses would be rolled out through the portal.

After the National Democratic Alliance government came to power in May 2014, it latched on to the eBiz idea for improving India’s ranking in World Bank’s Doing Business ranking.

In his first budget speech on 10 July 2014, then finance minister Arun Jaitley announced that all government services would be made available on the eBiz platform by 31 December of that year in a bid to streamline clearances that businesses require.

“The eBiz platform aims to create a business- and investor-friendly ecosystem in India by making all business and investment-related clearances and compliances available on a 24x7 single portal, with an integrated payment gateway. All central government departments and ministries will integrate their services with the eBiz platform on priority by 31 December this year," Jaitley had said. That, of course, did not happen.

In February 2015, Jaitley, along with then commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman and World Bank country director Onno Ruhl, added 11 new central government services to the eBiz platform taking the total to 14.

Four months later, the eBiz portal saw its last update at 4.18pm on 18 June 2015.The government remembered the usefulness of the portal in December 2016 after a disappointing improvement in India’s ranking in the World Bank’s annual Doing Business survey by just one notch to 130. In a high-level meeting of six cabinet ministers, Jaitley finalized an eight-point strategy to realize Modi’s target to take India’s Doing Business ranking to the top 50.

The first on the list was to make eBiz portal mandatory for starting a business, which will include three functions of the ministry of corporate affairs—registration for PAN (permanent account number) and TAN (tax deduction account number) and registration for Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation and Employees’ State Insurance Corp. However, the portal currently says services like PAN and TAN are “temporarily unavailable".

The eBiz project is still relevant as nothing can replace a single-window facility, a former bureaucrat involved in the project said on condition of anonymity. “It is sad that the government has decided to shut it down after spending so much money and effort on it," he added.

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